There is no need to fear a return of Japanese militarism
The China Post news staff
May 1, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
South Korea and China blasted Japan last week for the visits by Japanese parliamentarians to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where close to 2.5 million men, women and children who died in the name of Japanese emperors from 1867 to the end of World War II are honored. Seoul and Beijing filed protests with Tokyo against the visits by the Japanese Cabinet members for honoring some of the enshrined souls who are accused of war crimes. Among these are Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo, who started the Pacific War, and General Seishiro Itagaki, who masterminded the Mukden Incident of 1931 that launched Japan's invasion of China.
There are two reasons for South Korea and China to complain about the Yasukuni visits. Seoul and Beijing consider the visits to symbolize Japan's intransigent refusal to repent for the wrongs it did in the wars, and as a resurgence of Japanese militarism. That is a chronic misunderstanding.
As a matter of fact, Japanese prime ministers have apologized repeatedly for the atrocities the Japanese militarists committed in South Korea, China and elsewhere. Prime Minister Tomiichi Murakami, in particular, apologized three times, once in 1984 together with a lower house resolution on repentance, and twice in 1985. Even ultranationalist Junichiro Koizumi, the mentor of Shinzo Abe, offered a public apology for the wars Japan started. But Prime Minister Abe, another ultranationalist, has not apologized, though he did not visit Yasukuni to pay homage in person.
There is a cultural difference. In Shintoism, which was the state religion of prewar Japan, anybody enshrined is absolved of whatever crime he committed in life. Those honored at Yasukuni are all kami (神) — spirits and the essence of faith. Among them are 27,863 Taiwanese, one of them an elder brother of former President Lee Teng-hui, who visited Yasukuni a few years ago to pay homage. The Japanese visit Yasukuni to honor their long-dead relatives. It does not have anything to do with militarism, be the visitor a prime minister, a member of the Diet, a general or an admiral, or the man on the street. Any attempt to compel them to stop visiting the shrine may be construed as infringing upon their freedom of faith.